The Basement is in some ways the island of misfit toys. Percussion toys, that is. Triangles, tambourines and the flavor of the week, the noble wood block.
I was hired to play that simple instrument in the Turangalila Symphony of Olivier Messiaen. It’s a big part. Not a concerto, but a feature. OK, it’s a massive and thickly orchestrated work that’s over an hour long and takes 10 percussionists but the wood block part is juicy and it CUTS. No hiding in the texture for me. AND I’m tagging along once again for the SLSO concerts in Carnegie Hall next month when they’re taking this show on the road.
UPDATE: I almost forgot. I’m working with a SLSO CD of Turangalila that I’m actually on. This is a very rare occurrence. So rare that it’s never happened to me before! It’s a live recording from 1999 under Hans Vonk, the maestro at the time. I played snare drum on that (another very rare occurrence) and I’m getting a kick out of practicing along with it.
Anyway, when I got the part it occurred to me that I didn’t have a wood block. I have some Jam Blocks and some temple blocks, but a basic wood block is not in my case. So as I often do, I took the opportunity to get my own lovely block of woody goodness. Like most of my stuff, I got it from Steve Weiss. I chose the Vaughncraft No. 3. (It has to be Vaughncraft, right? At least for my first one.) This beauty comes in maple and cherry. I chose the maple because I am fond of light woods. I don’t know why. Here’s a pic of the new tool in the Basement.
By the way, this view is for the photo only. You’d never play the wood block with the sound hole facing you would you? No, of course not…
The concert was last night at the Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. The Turangalila fans (few but faithful) were in attendance on a very cold, windy evening. There was a forty minute lecture demonstration with slides on the first half of the concert and then the piece was played through on the second half. That’s a lot of Messiaen brother! But it rocked. “Epic” was a quote I heard backstage.